Witnesses to Impacts of pollution from Chevron's gas rig explosion
GPS Coordinates: Elev:4m, N04°42.675’, E 005°33.949’ [Ezetu 1 community],…..Elev:9m, N 04°44.776’, E 005°32.634’ [Where the Pennington river empties into the Atlantic Ocean], …Elev:12m, N 04°43.295’, E005°34.657’ [Ezetu 2],…Elev:11m, N 04°41.613’, E 005°34.409’ [Ekeni Community]
Elev:10m ,N04°41.459’, E 005°34.304’[By the ocean shore at Ekeni].
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) decided to visit some communities along the Atlantic coast to ascertain the spread and impact of the Chevron’s January 16, 2012 North Apoi gas wellhead explosion.
Having visited Koluama kingdom and the site of the explosion thrice, ERA/FoEN field monitors decided to feel the pulse of people in other communities, get testimonies and carry out independent observation.
Monitors visited Ezutu 1, Ezetu 2 and Ekeni which are fishing communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The three communities share the same coastline with Koluama Community and are neighbours to other communities including Forupa. The three communities are settled around two great bodies of water: The River Pennington and the Atlantic Ocean.
Chevron’s major oil exploitation facilities are found off the coast of the communities, including the Pennington platform. The visit to the communities confirmed that the pollutants from Chevron’s explosion site have reached their shores and started impacting the health and livelihood of people. Testimonies of the impacts include dead fishes seen within the shoreline and events of the very last minutes at the K.S Endeavour [American drilling rig] before the explosion and resultant inferno and pollution that have lasted for over a month now.
At Ezetu 1:
After receiving the ERA/FoEN team and hearing the motive behind the visit, the community folks led the team round the community, and to the site of their only source of drinking water [a shallow pond-like body of water] and a health facility built by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation /Chevron joint venture. The water pump has not functioned for a day. While responding to ERA/FoEN mission to Ezetu 1, the Vice Chairman of the Community Development Committee of the town Mr Laghabo Salvation said: We see your visit as a positive development and wish to commend you for the visit. We are part of communities impacted by the explosion that occurred on January 16, 2011 at the Chevron facility. Though we also heard the explosion that particular morning and saw the ensuing fire, we never knew the impact would have been so grave on the environment, our health and livelihood. Right now as we speak most of the strangers who lived here with us and going about fishing has departed the community because since this incident we can’t engage in real fishing anymore; as a result of the chemical pollutants in the environment, on the ocean and shoreline. We are a fishing community but we are now buying fish instead of selling same. In terms of health, we are impacted and some who could afford have travelled out to seek medical attention either in Warri in Delta State or in Yenagoa, our state capital. Those who cannot afford the means or have where to run to have remained here to face the pollution as if nothing happened. This is our predicament. Apart from fish of different sizes that were either dead or in throes of death floating around here, we also saw a whale here that was washed ashore. And because of its state of decomposition, the waves swept it back into the ocean. Some youths took photographs of it with their mobile phones.
Corinthians Duoduo, Esq.:
We have a health facility built here for us by NNPC/TEXACO/ CHEVRON and commissioned by the first civilian governor of the state in the current dispensation, Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha on October 20, 2001. That was all. Since that time till now no equipment or staff has been sent to this beautiful structure you see. The place has been overtaken by grass. The community used to remove the grasses around voluntarily but due to the lack of confidence about its benefit, things have degenerated to what you now see. Is this good? Is this how oil-bearing communities should be treated by government and the oil companies? I guess your answer will not be in the affirmative. And to that extent, it is unacceptable to us. Our sick ones are now taken to Warri or Yenagoa for medical attention instead of being treated here. We are calling on Chevron and the government to come and make this health facility functional and save our people from untimely deaths and pains.
At Ezetu 2
Moses Kaiser, Vice Chairman of the Community Development Committee:
The Chevron incident occurred on January 16, 2012. Since that day we have been suffering the impacts. We can no longer go out to fish anymore. Even my elder brother took ill because of the gas explosion almost three weeks ago and, I have been trying to see him treated. The doctors were talking about complications around the chest, respiratory problem. Even if you go into the high see, the creek and river, you get nothing these days. As you see me dressed in rain boot, am just returning from the bush and the river, yet nothing. We are dying. Sometimes too we feel sensation on our skin and scratches here and there, mostly the children. The children are even impacted in the eyes, especially early in the morning. We are suffering a lot from this incident and, in conclusion I want the government to consider our plight and ensure that we are adequately compensated for all our losses.
Since this thing happened we have not been killing fish as before. In this community, we used to kill fish well but from January till now, that is no longer the case. Apart from the lack of fish, our people have been experiencing health complications such as gastrointestinal problems and some of them are now receiving treatment in Warri. Even yesterday there was another case. The situation is really tough for us as a result of this gas wellhead explosion. And this is now our problem….
Madam Ruth Bunozimor:
The people of this community are mainly fishing folks. Right now our fishing activity has been drastically reduced due to this Chevron pollution that has impacted our environment. We don’t know which way to turn again. There is no other occupation we know here. If I have access to Chevron and Government I will demand that they pay us monthly for what we have lost. Yes, we should be compensated for all these weeks that we have remained at home. And we are starving
After the explosion occurred at Chevron’s North Apoi, we woke up in the morning and found that our shoreline has been flooded with strange oily chemical. It affected all the fishing nets that we left around the shore overnight. Dead fish and those on the throes of death were washed ashore while some were seen floating, big and small. Some of us took photographs of the scene as the environmental disaster unfolded right before our eyes. It impacted even neighbouring communities such as Ezetu. Here in Ekeni we have twelve settlements and none was free from the impact. When our sons in the city heard of the calamity that befell us and came, we took them round all the settlements in the kingdom and showed them the damage. They even recorded it on video. We could no longer go to fish again because the very fish that we ought to go out for are being killed by pollutants from Chevron’s facility daily. Besides, being afraid of consuming these poisoned fish, we now buy fish from other places. Very sadly, when Chevron sent some food items, we saw the gesture as another attempt to cause conflict amongst us. Yes, because even the food we received was not enough for one compound or the smallest settlement in the Ekeni kingdom. We received just one cow for the whole kingdom to share. They just wanted us to kill ourselves because of what they sent. Chevron promised to send medicine and a medical team to take care of the health implications that arose from the North Apoi explosion but we now realize they just deceived us. Now that you are here, it is proper to let you know this. If Chevron thinks that they can toy with us they are making a grave mistake. We are only restraining out youths. Right now plans are on ground to go and stop the company’s operation in our environment. If the government and Chevron will take the crude oil and gas from our environment and make other places look good and allow us to suffer the negative impacts, then even if all of us die fighting for our rights, that would be more acceptable to us...
Chief Feifidei Morgan:
Let me start by saying that our community is one of the most seriously impacted communities. It was as if the water current brought the pollutant straight and deposited here on our shore. It is a fact that the North Apoi facility is located within Koluama environment, but the chemicals got here first. It was from here that those who came to collect samples took their first samples for test. The wind also brought the pollution directly here. And, we are all sick people now. As you are seeing me, I was also on board the rig that was drilling [the K.S. Endeavour] when the explosion occurred. It happened around 5am on January 16, 2012. The owner of the rig and one Indian lost their lives in the incident. But it was the owner of the rig that gave all of us the alarm and ensured that we left whatever we were doing and run to the live boats. Bruno is the name of the head of the rig and he was the one who saved all of us. When it was clear to him that there was a serious gas buildup that was likely to lead to an explosion and fire he alerted everybody to take off to the live boats. At this time the gas pressure was high and he was trying to reach out to some of the valves to reduce the gas leakage to enable us escape before fire or explosion. But within a short period of about five minutes, as he was quickly doing that [closing some of the essential valves] the gas had already covered the rig. There were four live boats in the rig. We quickly entered into three of them. As we were leaving the rig in a hurry in three live boats, living the last one for him and the Indian, the rig exploded. In that scenario some of us fell into the Ocean and Bruno and the other Indian were caught in the fire and did not come out. It was the fishing folks who saved some of us who found ourselves in the water in the morning light. That was how it happened. I was part of the maintenance crew on the rig before the explosion occurred on January 16, 2012.
One very obvious fact is that while the testimonies may not have any significant variance from those obtained from Koluama kingdom, it is most significant that a member of the K.S. Endeavour rig that exploded on January 16, 2012 recounted the experience. Field monitors were able to confirm the spread of the pollutant from Chevron’s facility and its impact on the environment: aquatic life, livelihoods and health of the people.It was observed that the people were drinking from shallow bodies of water in the community as there was no pipe-borne water. It was observed that most canoes have nets that are just lying idle at the water front of the communities. The visiting team went as far as the point where the Pennington River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Fisherfolks and a large number of fishing nets and hooks were seen also.
The Federal Government rise up to the occasion and ensure Chevron cleans up the impacted environment after proper investigation of the spread.
Chevron and the Federal Government take care of the health and livelihood loss of the people in impacted communities.
Adequate compensation be paid to all who suffered in one way or the other, considering specific and general damages.